Tina’s Essen Spiel 2019 Experiences
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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Hey folks! Welcome to Tina’s Spiel Experiences 2019!

This is my 8th consecutive visit to Essen for Spiel. We’re here from Wednesday to Sunday, and I hope to provide some coverage on the games we have seen, played and enjoyed on our trip. If you are interested in my games of interest running up to the fair, these are here: [Tina’s Essen Wishlist 2019].

I’m here with my friends Dave and Lou, and I’d say our ‘wheelhouse’ is medium to heavy euro-games. We’ve all pre-ordered some games that we’ll definitely cover (which you can see on my list), but also we always hope to be surprised by a game that wasnt on the radar prior to the fair as well.

So without further ado, lets get to the list!
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1. Board Game: Tussie Mussie [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:1679]
Board Game: Tussie Mussie
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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The day got started at 7 am, when my husband drove us to the airport for our LHR-DUS run. After a bit of breakfast in Giraffe we had time for some fillers before we boarded our flight.

Our first game was the micro-game Tussie Mussie, which fits in a little wallet about the size of a bus pass.

Tussie Mussie’s central mechanism is an ‘I split-you choose’ mechanism. On your turn, you draw two cards, and after looking at them, place one face-up and one face-down in front of the player to your left. That player can choose either card, but they can’t see the face-down card until they take it, and they maintain the facing when adding it to their tableau, so other players don’t know what they have. Face down cards are ‘keep-sakes’, and face-up cards are in your ‘bouquet’. Card powers will score you points from having certain colours of flower or certain numbers of cards, or hearts in your bouquet or keepsake at the end of the round. The player play three rounds, and the player with most points wins.

I enjoyed Tussie Mussie. It felt fresh, and like an idea that didnt try to outstay its welcome. It fills a similar spot as something like Love Letter as you try and fathom out which card you want, and a bit of second guessing as to the cards your friends might be wanting to pass off on you.

A fun little filler.

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2. Board Game: Fleet: The Dice Game [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:1109]
Board Game: Fleet: The Dice Game
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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Next post-breakfast game was. Fleet: Dice. I’ve not played Fleet, so I can’t compare the two, but Fleet Dice is a fun, and well developed super-filler roll and write game.

Players’ Fleets begin life as as single boat with a single license (special ability). The game takes place over 10 rounds with 3 or 4 phases (fishing phase is every other round):
In Boat Phase, players draft 1 die, then activate the final die for all players, improving their fleet of boats, or adding additional licenses.
In income phase, players receive gold according to their current income (lobster boats increase this). Gold isn’t currency per se, it gives players the possibility of a star action if a player gets enough, which is an additional boat or town buff.
In Catch Fish, each launched boat catches one fish. Oyster boats catch two fish.
Finally, in town phase, players improve either their harbourside operations (i.e. launch other types of boats), or their wharf (points scoring buildings), or can take another boat action.

Fleet Dice is definitely one of the better roll and writes available (good enough for me to part with my own money, lol). There’s enough simultaneous actions and the shared dice activation to keep all players engaged in the game. You do need to keep a good handle on your license and building powers though, and remember to apply them. But assuming your memory is good, the game rewards you with a thinky super-filler game. Definitely recommended.

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3. Board Game: Carrossel [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:12095]
Board Game: Carrossel
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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In the evening of the 23rd we went to the Essen Preview night. For those that haven’t heard of it, it was a ticket-only event (about 550 tickets) with a selection of publishers where you could demo games in a quieter environment. It was in the press area (I believe). Publishers either provided demo-ists or put copies of their game into the library, or in some cases both.

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Its hard to say that I got EUR35 worth of benefit from the experience (and I know they were charging the publishers to attend as well, so Merz Verlag must have done pretty well out of it).

Nevertheless it was a good chance to demo some games. For people interested in what was hot, the games that seemed very popular were Ecos, Aquatica, Pret a Porter, Trismegistus, Last Bastion, Crystal Palace. There were a lot of smaller publishers there as well which meant that it was easier to see some of the smaller releases, so that’s where we’ll start, with Carousel

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Caroussel is essentially an abstract strategy pattern building game, centred around the titular Carousel, which is a sort of cardboard lazy Susan. On their turn, a player plays a numbered card (1-12), and a Carousel vehicle (e.g. a swan or a lion). They add the tile to the Carousel section in front of them, and check to see if they completed a pattern that the riders want. If they havent then the Carousel rotates and they begin again. If they do, then the tiles immediately score points for their owners (which may be people other than you). Your pattern may connect between two sections of the Caroussel as well.

The game gives the appearance of being quite a light (dare I say childrens game) but it is pretty tactical because as soon as the riders are satisfied, new ones come out, so you might lose your chance to score. So there is a lot of leaching of combos (or at least getting there first), and trying not to leave anything ‘on’ for the other players.

I’ll confess that my brain really doesn’t work in that way, which I think marred my enjoyment, but the game definitely had more depth than it first appeared.
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4. Board Game: Point Salad [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:468]
Board Game: Point Salad
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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It was my choice as to what to play next, so I picked Point Salad, which is obviously already out, but I hadn’t played it yet.

Point Salad is a filler game where the cards have vegetables on the back and scoring conditions on the front. Players draft either two vegetables, or one scoring condition, continuing til all the cards are gone.

It was fun little filler. If you like things like Bohnanza, then you might have a laugh with this, especially with friends as it has a reasonably large range of player counts.

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5. Board Game: Trial of the Temples [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:7157]
Board Game: Trial of the Temples
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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In Trial of the Temples, it was a bit hard to say what the theme was, but I assume that we are some sort of magical people directing three novices on some temple tracks. The game has a cute day-night cycle where the time marker advances, and then the trailing 3-5 tiles are ‘in night’ and have their B-side available, and the rest of the tiles are on their A side. Players place their workers on a tile (they can’t place next to each other), and then they get the resources printed on the tile, plus all the tiles between them and the other players (or the day/night tile). This creates some interest in picking the best place to go (and hoping no-one places near you), but there can be a chasm in the level of resources each player might get, depending on how the workers get placed.

Then the trials phase begins, where players try to advance in each of the temples by paying resources per step advanced. If they pass over another player, that player gets mana, and they get to skip that space. Players also have a personal board that accepts magic cores which turn on passive buffs to their base abilities, gives them new conversions, or victory points. They can’t place cores of the same colour in any row or column.

This was probably the best of the games we played at the preview evening, and had some interesting decisions, but I prefer something like Reykholt for a ‘paying goods to advance on tracks’ kind of a game. Another game in the good but not great category.

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6. Board Game: Railroad Revolution: Railroad Evolution [Average Rating:8.28 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.28 Unranked]
Board Game: Railroad Revolution: Railroad Evolution
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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In a shock announcement that pretty much no-one was expecting, WYG announced the long needed expansion for Railroad Revolution: Railroad Evolution. This is a must buy for me, to see how they resolved the strength of the telegraph development action.

Railroad Revolution has a really interesting core gameplay of placing workers, and the colour of the worker giving a buff to one of the 4 basic tasks, but the buff depending on the colour for each task.

I’m excited to get this back to the table now and see how it plays.

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7. Board Game: Bruxelles 1897 [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:2024]
Board Game: Bruxelles 1897
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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So I hadn’t played the previous Bruxelles Board game, so apologies that I can’t compare them, but I did demo the card game. The demo tables had some nice neoprene boards that don’t come in the box. Although the game is a small box game, you will actually need a fair amount of table real estate to lay out out.

The board is a central tableau of cards of various types. Players have ‘worker’ cards in hand which they play into the tableau, paying the strength of the worker in coins to get the card they desire, adding it to their personal tableau. Actions include buying antiques, putting on an antiques show, building buildings, recruiting nobles (who can be activated for their powers), springing your workers out of jail, and getting more money.

At the end of the round, you count majorities for your workers in each column, adding to your scoring multipliers, and also trying to complete seals with the corners of your cards for other multipliers.

I know that both Rahdo and Edward at Heavy Cardboard had this somewhere in their top 20, but honestly it was another game in the good but not great category. Its not that visually appealing to me, the use of 1/3 cards for money was at times, inconvenient (working out the change), and I just didnt find the decisions that the game wanted you to make were that appealing either. Neutral.

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8. Board Game: Buckaroo! [Average Rating:4.50 Overall Rank:19231]
Board Game: Buckaroo!
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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By lunchtime I felt very much like my Kelptomaniac Elder Scrolls Oblivion Character who could never leave someone’s house without taking all their crockery [you are over encumbered], and my pack had reached a weight where I could barely lift it. I know I could have taken it to the cloakroom, but that meant paying money I could otherwise spend on food or games, so I popped back to my accommodation to drop my shopping off.

I took one of those Cajon packs with me, and honestly I’d struggle to recommend that, as it tends to try and roll off your shoulders, and has no sternum strap. I was quite sore by the time I put it down. I know people hate them, but trolleys are honestly a lot better.

Here is my Day 1 Haul:
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I’m staying a bit further north this time. The accomodation seemed really handy for McDonalds until I realised it’s CLOSED for a refit. Booooooo. Oh well, some cheap breaded items from Aldi then.
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9. Board Game: Nova Luna [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:1144]
Board Game: Nova Luna
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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You like Patchwork? You like Habitats? You like them smooshed together? Well then you might like Nova Luna.

Nova Luna takes the tile selection mechanism from Patchwork (pick from one of the three times in front of the pawn, from a ring of tiles), advancing your counter for the ‘time’ on the tile.

You add the tile you took, orthogonally adjacent to your existing tableau of tiles. Each tile has a colour, and also ‘requirements’, i.e. what neighbour tiles it wants to be adjacent to. When you meet its adjacency requirements, you cover that requirement. Players race to complete their requirements. The first to do so is the winner.

I thought this game was fine but not stellar. It ran a bit long (although we noticed that the rules advise for a first game to remove some requirement counters). The look and iconography of the game is clear, but not totally appealing. The requirement discs are a bit fiddly and small. Particularly your time track pawn was a bit small, and the stack kept falling over. I can see it being a relaxing couples game. I get the feeling that a number of times this fair I will be saying that Good is not Good enough when there are so many games competing for my time.

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10. Board Game: Welkin [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:8493]
Board Game: Welkin
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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Lou wanted to try Welkin, which was on her try list.

Welkin is a card drafting game. On your turn you can draft a card, flip one of your 5 resource tiles and produce resources, or supply resources to complete a card and potentially get a bonus.

Welkin has two interesting choices. The first is over how you generate resources. There are 5 resources in the game (iron, jewels, sky, dragon, greenery). Each resource tile has +1 on the back. When you gain resources, you flip a tile, and you sum the +1s to tell you how many resources to gain, and you can pick from the resources that are showing their faces for the number you get. When you pay resources to score a card, you count the number of tokens in that resources sector, and get that multiplied by each resource type cashed in. These resource tiles can be flipped to change the market value of each resource during the game, so you wont know how much you are scoring until you come to score it.

The game was fine, but honestly, there are other much better card drafting resource generation games out there, and it would be hard to recommend this over them.

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11. Board Game: Aquatica [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:2346]
Board Game: Aquatica
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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Aquatica is a really visually appealing game, but Cosmodrome has been let down a touch by their manufacturers in terms of the quality of the final game. I know printing anything in a dark colour is going to be a challenge because scratches and marks look much worse, but there are just a bunch of niggling things that should be better (see comments under pictures). Anecdotally I heard in the halls that the icons were starting to rub off the mantas too.

In play the game is great though. The game has the Concordia style character based deck building mechanism, and then conquering or purchasing of location. Your locations slot into your player board. The consumption of your locations bitewise into the slots as you use their resources works really smoothly (the dips in the slots don’t quite line up with the icons on the cards, which is a minor irritation). The drafting of characters presents some interesting choices in honing your engine. The race for the goals is over perilously quickly if the players forge ahead, and you NEED to stay on top of the goals because they are worth so many points.

I do feel like the game is very ripe for an expansion - I think it would be good to see something in 6 months to a years time to extend the game’s appeal. There are only 27 character cards, and with 3 copies of each card there are only 9 different additional character powers on top of your base 6. I feel like the game needs more different powers. There is plenty of variety in locations though. It would definitely be interesting to play with some of the other goals, and there is a decent variety of goals in the game.

I also wish that the starting positions were a bit more different from each other, as we all have the same mantas (except the type of location the +2 Power manta is different between the 4 players).

The base mechanisms of the game are fresh though, and I really feel that they could build on it.

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Quite a lot of whiting on the board edges

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4 or 5 dinged up cards like this

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Printing problems on two of my player boards.

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The Manta Rays are incredibly cute and tactile.

I also need to mention that the box had a very good insert.
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12. Board Game: Electropolis [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:3818]
Board Game: Electropolis
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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The final game of Thursday night was Electropolis. Lou had picked it up on the recommendation of Steph Hodge, with the description ‘it’s like Power Grid but with no map’, which automatically puts you on the back foot a bit, but it shouldn’t because this was the best small-box game of the con so far, and definitely one I can recommend.

Players have 5x5 spaced boards, and in turn order they bid how many tiles they want to take, but the catch is the more tiles they want, the later they get to pick in turn order. The square tiles are laid out patchwork style in a ring, and the players take the number of tiles they bid, and those tiles must all be adjacent to each other in the ring. They place fuel tiles for later use powering plants adjacent to their board and place their plants and public buildings on the board. Then the next catch: you also draft a card with the tiles you take. The top half of the card is either a scoring opportunity (immediate or game end) (or additional public opinion), and the bottom half gives you a placement limitation for your tiles (e.g. only in the top corner, or only on the lower half). So the choice of card is non trivial as well.

Then there’s the battle between easy placement (ie build up your city evenly in each corner), versus concentrating on one area to get mid game scoring opportunities, but less options for placement).

At the end of the game, your public opinion needs to exceed your pollution or you get some serious negative points.

The game makes me think of something like power grid combined with sort of between two cities, but I think I like it more than between two cities. I’m not sure that the game has a single ‘new’ concept in it, but what is there is taut, well balanced, and the game is the right length for its decision density. Its also got a nice minimalist but attractive aesthetic. Recommended.

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13. Board Game: Iron Curtain [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:1955]
Board Game: Iron Curtain
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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I also have a small confession at this point.

When I checked into my hotel yesterday, I was dismayed to find that my room had no curtains (it just had some voile panes hanging). And my door to the garden had nothing at all! Bloody minimalist Germans I thought. I ended up getting into my PJs in the bathroom and having the lighting on low all evening so I wasn’t like a little cinema if you looked in the window.

I came back this evening to hear this strange whirring sound from outside. Curious, I opened a window and stuck my head out. The room next door to mine was activating their Roller shutters. After a bit of exploring in the room I found the ‘extra lightswitches’ and also closed mine. *sigh*

Well at least I had it worked out on day 2...
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14. Board Game: Babylonia [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:2250]
Board Game: Babylonia
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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The first (and only) game I managed to play in the halls on Friday was Babylonia by Reiner Knizia.

Babylonia is a sort of rehash of something between Samurai, Through the Desert and Blue Lagoon. Players have a pool of discs from which they take a pool of 5. On their turn, they can place 2 discs of any symbol (farmer, pots, nobles, or stars) anywhere on the board, or place up to all the farmers they have. If they surround ziggurats they score a new ability if they have the majority (I think this is the Samurai bit). If they surround cities, they score points for the number of matched symboled pieces that connect to that city. THis seems more like through the desert. The rivers tigris and Euphrates run through the board, meaning to make connections to other areas, you may need to place tiles face-down as boatmen (like in Blue Lagoon). There are also farms that score fixed points if you place farmers on them.

It was very standard Knizia fare. Again it was fine, but it wasn’t good enough for me to part with cash. There wasn’t really a new idea in the game that hasn’t been explored in Knizia’s other games. The tile racks were really easy to knock and spill your tiles over - they could have been a bit better designed. It was graphically a bit muddy. The scoring was just a bit too complicated to make it easy enough to be a gateway game, but it also simultaneously wasn’t really interesting enough to make it a mid weight game. I personally much prefer Blue Lagoon, which I find to be much more focused, as well as having a much more enticing pallet of colours.

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15. Board Game: Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan [Average Rating:8.25 Overall Rank:552]
Board Game: Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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So it turns out that the English rules and supplement were available from the Hans Im Gluck Booth, so I decided to pick this up.

APOLOGIES FOR THE DELAY! (I left my laptop in a bar by accident last night, and I only just got it back and got back to my room). Anyway, onwards...

I am not an experienced Marco Polo player (having played the base game only once). It was not an ideal experience either as I think we played a few rules wrong. But the lasting impression I had of the game was that moving across the board was actually pretty difficult, and you could end up for a lot of the game just kinda staying within a few spaces, and delivering contracts.

The TLDR of this is: Everything is different, and yet familiar. I liked Marco Polo 2 much more than the original, and for me, it replaces it.

To find out why, and to help you decide whats best for you, read on...

One of the main questions people ask is “is Marco Polo 2 like Marco Polo 1? And the answer to this is YES AND NO. If you are familiar with Marco Polo 1, the whole iconography of the game is instantly familiar, and you will be able to read the board easily. And yet there are lots and lots of changes to the game.

Firstly the markets. The Market in MP1 was static for the whole game, if memory serves. In MP2, the lower part of the market changes each turn, and you will be able to see the tile of the future market as well, and thus plan for what will be available. The two basic spaces of the market (go here with this die value, get these resources) is static, but what you can buy with the new resource (jade) rotates.

Secondly, the contracts. As before, you begin the game with a single contract. But differently from the base game, where you drafted contracts from a window, you must travel to get contracts now (which is a lot more thematic). So your journey across the board now needs to take into account which cities you might pass that have tasty contracts you want. When you’ve left an outpost in a city, you can take the contract drafting action to take 2 contracts from an out-posted city.

City action cards and ‘get there first’ tokens very much work how they did in the base game - once you have an outpost in a city, you can use its action. Smaller towns have “!” Actions that you get immediately and at the start of the round. What is new is that there are a scrolling 2 city action cards at the bottom of the board now providing different action offerings available to all each round.

There are also some cities like Baghdad that have abilities printed on the board, and once you have an outpost there, you get a benefit plus an additional bonus if you have the required guild seal (also see below).

Travelling has now been revised so that the last person to travel in the highest row activated becomes first player.

There are also the Guild seals (farmers, tailors, spicers, and jewellers). You can take an action with 2 dice to gain the seal of a guild. This seal gets you passage across certain short cuts on the board. Paying to upgrade your seal gives you a “!” Bonus which you get immediately, and once per round, as before.

End game scoring gives 8 points to the player who delivered the most contracts, and 4 points to the second, then you get an ascending scale of points for the number of different cities you have delivered to (indicated by their pennants). You also have secret goals that want give you bonuses for visiting certain cities and for having certain upgraded guild tiles.

Similarly to the base game, MP2 has character abilities that are all pretty strong (although possibly not quite as strong as the MP1.

Finally, the rulebook in MP2 is much better arranged than the MP1, and you will find it a lot easier to follow.

MP2 definitely encourages more travel (and incentivises it with victory points). Anyone familiar with MP1 will easily be able to get into the new mechanics of MP2, once they’ve identified the parts of the board in their new locations. MP2 feels less claustrophobic than MP1 - it feels like there are more paths to victory with travel being a lot more viable, plus all the ways to spend Jade as well.

Purists may say that MP1 is a little cleaner, but I personally prefer the broader paths to victory in MP2.

From gallery of malibu_babe_28
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16. Board Game: Rush M.D. [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:4106]
Board Game: Rush M.D.
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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Saturday! The busiest, and probably least pleasant day to experience Spiel. It lived up to its name with the usual ‘people soup’, which was more like ‘people meatloaf’ in the pinch point by Pegasus Spiele in Hall 3.

After making a beeline to the Quined Stall to pick up Terramara, and collecting my missing laptop, I decided to get a demo of Rush MD at the Artipia Booth.

Rush MD could probably be best described as a mash up of Overcooked/Kitchen Rush with operation. I’m not the biggest fan of real-time games or Operation, but before you scroll on, hear me out.

Like Kitchen Rush, players are working cooperatively at a hospital where they each have one doctor sand-timer and a pool of nurse sand timers. The group sets a timer for 4 minutes, and they begin. Putting a nurse timer in triage admits 1-3 new patients, and you have a mix of Oupatients (who just need pills and injections) as well as casualties, who need diagnosis and further treatment (possibly an operation) before they can be cured. To get more medical supplies such as pills, syringes, and so forth, you need to put nurses into the pharmacy. To get more organs, put nurses into the organ bank. Blood into the blood bank. Casualties get put into these cute trollies while you add the requires organs. Each diagnosis suite has its own mini-game, and you might have multiple diagnoses to make. If you have to operate then all the pieces have to be handled with tweezers. Injections go into little syringes.

At the end of the timer, untreated patients get more ill (and possibly die, losing you points), and cured patients score you points. The amusing thing is that the board is not restocked before the next round, so if your hospital supplies are in disarray - tough luck - thats what you’ll start with for the next round!

The game is just a great test of teamwork and communication as you try and process as many patients as possible. Honestly, they should sell it to people who do team building days. It was very silly fun, but actually it achieves well what it set out to do, i.e. to force the group to work as a team and interact with each other. The whole game is 16 minutes, but you’ll have sweated some bullets before the end. Recommended.
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17. Board Game: Kingdomino Duel [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:2178]
Board Game: Kingdomino Duel
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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I know what you’re thinking, right, another one of those XXX: the dice game, cashing in on its name, and this whole roll and write trend...

But hold your horses a minute. This little game is actually pretty good, and definitely a nice couples activity. You like Patchwork/Patchwork Doodle? You like Kingdomino but its a bit inconvenient for travel? Try this game.

Imagine if you took Kingdomino, but replaced the terrain types with different types of shields, and the crowns with crosses, and then instead of all those dominos you instead rolled some satisfyingly chunky dice for the terrain types, drafting 1:2:2:1 fashion. Well thats the kernel of the game.

Your grid, like in Kingdomino, begins with a central castle, and some empty spaces. On your turn, you draft two dice, and draw fill in the shields on your board with the symbols from the dice. Much like Kingdomino you’re trying to build up regions and get crowns for multipliers.

Then here’s where it gets a bit more interesting. On the back of your board you have a number of special actions. Each time you select a shield of a certain symbol (without a crown), you can check a box on your track towards getting that ability. If you draft a die with a crown or a ?, well you’re getting the benefit of the crown, but no check mark for you on the back of the sheet. Only one of the two players can gain a particular special ability, and so the other player crosses it out when you gain it. The abilities are things like placing a die without using normal placement rules, or not placing your symbols adjacent to each other.

At the end of the game, you score exactly like you would in Kingdomino (crowns x area size), but you are given a wild crown you can apply to any area before you tot up the final score.

I didnt go in with big expectations of the game, but I was really pleasantly surprised by it, and found that each die draft was full of angst in the same way that Sagrada makes you sigh... why did I put that there? I’ve totally screwed myself now...! Yes, there is some luck of the roll, but the game is all about how to maximise your options to ride that luck out. A very fun little roll and write - better than most.

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18. Board Game: Offshore [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:7005]
Board Game: Offshore
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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I have to admit to being pretty tired out by Saturday night, so I had to have a little extra R&R to recover before the journey home on Sunday, but there were still games to be seen, so back to the hall.

Offshore was our first stop, and I joined up with a group of 3 other brits to play.

Offshore is fundamentally a negotiation and press-your-luck game. I know that many people are not big fans of negotiation, but before you switch off, know that neither am I, and yet I still really enjoyed this game.

Players take the role of oil companies during the 1960s, opening oil exploration sites in the North Sea. On a player’s turn they can either invest in technology, sell the oil they already extracted for VP, tile refreshes or money (noting that they can only access VP sites on the locations they already have rigs on), or they can open a new operations.

They can open an operation on their own (but have to exhaust a technology tile for each required icon), or they can ask one other player to help them open the operation. The advantage of doing so is that they can share the technology flips between them, meaning they share the buffs of the technology they use, and can also pool their money during extraction. The dig manager gets points for opening the site, and gets final say over how the dig proceeds.

This is when the press-your-luck aspect begins. Players draw dig tiles from the bag, and these tiles can have VP, money, and oil barrels as rewards, but also have ‘pressure’ icons, and if you get more than 3 in total, you bust, which destroys the lowest 3 segments of the extraction. Players can pay money to draw 2 tiles rather than one, to manage their risk, and can split the cost between them. Opening a site reveals further sites that can be extracted from in the future.

At the end of the game, players score points for opening sites, points for their technology tiles, and 2 points for each pipeline where they have a rig at either end.

I was really impressed by the gameplay of Offshore. The negotiation and digging felt fresh and fun. I do feel that the game is at its best with 3-4 players (not sure how it would work with 2) because its a game of temporary alliances. You feel like you are right in the game til the end, since you really want to only make alliances with whomever you think is doing worst, so its a really co9se thing to the end.

The game did have some graphical issues (some of the tiles were misprinted). The box also did look a lot more beautified than the contents. But I think there’s a really good gameplay concept in there - actually a mechanism I feel could possibly be fleshed out into a bigger game.

Talking to the others at the table, they had a fun time too, and said that they actually thought that the mechanics were better than Deep Blue, but it would just be harder to get to the table based on looks and theme.

I had a fun time. As supplied, I didnt part with cash for it, but if it got a better looking reprint, or an expansion, it would be something I’d consider.
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19. Board Game: Age of Dirt: A Game of Uncivilization [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:6895]
Board Game: Age of Dirt: A Game of Uncivilization
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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We got a quick talk-through, and played a couple of rounds of Age of Dirt. I would classify this game as a gateway / older children’s game, as there is a reasonably high luck element, and its quite a silly game.

Players take the role of leaders of clans of stupid cavemen. At its heart, the game is a sort of luck based worker placement game. Players ‘post’ their cavemen into certain locations. The workers don’t immediatele yield resources. Instead they sit in that location until one player decides to evaluate it, at which point all cavemen in that location are tipped into a Amerigo-style dice tower, and some of them come out the bottom. The ones that come out get resources, those that don’t will get a player different resources when they are finally come out. Some locations have wild animals like a tiger or bear who can potentially eat workers (you can defend one worker with a spear, which you exhaust). You can also recall your workers using the drum. The drum allows a player to bang the dice tower with a drumstick to get their workers out (if they got stuck).

The drum and the spear can be repaired after use with resources. Players can also ‘eat/smoke the herbs’ to invent something. Inventions can be built with resources. THere are also global events in the event deck.

The first player to 10 points of inventions wins.

Age of Dirt is a game that doesnt take itself too seriously. Its not really that appealing for experienced gamers, as there is a reasonable luck element and some take that. I’d say it would be appealing for perhaps younger gamers, or gamers that like some light fun and luck in their games.

 
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20. Board Game: Aftermath [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:2416]
Board Game: Aftermath
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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THE AFTERMATH

Attending Essen really it just the tip of the iceberg for many people's gaming year. Most of the shopping is done for the year, but the playing is still to do.

There are many games that I picked up, and my friends picked up that we are yet to play, and we shall make our way through them over the coming year, so please subscribe to this post, and I'll continue to add reviews over the next few months.

Games already reviewed are:
Glen More II: Chronicles
Reavers of Midgard
Trismegistus

The games I will cover that I bought (at or around Essen) are:
Architects of the West Kingdom (new to me).
Black Angel
Champions of Midgard (new to me).
Cooper Island
Crystal Palace
Escape Plan
Expedition to Newdale
Gentes (new to me).
Ginkgopolis (new to me).
Gugong (new to me).
Macao (new to me).
Madeira (coming 2020).
The Magnificent
Mombasa (new to me).
Paladins of the West Kingdom
Railroad Evolution
Rush M.D.
Terramara
Too Many Bones (new to me).
Underwater Cities: New Discoveries
Vinhos (new to me).
Wingspan with European Birds

Dave and Lous Games
Ecos, First Continent
Its a Wonderful World
Barrage
Islands in the Fog
Maracaibo
Humbolt's Great Journey
Cat Cafe
Pharon
Ragusa
Sierra West
Lux Aeterna
Chartered: The Golden Age
Edge of Darkness
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21. Board Game: Reavers of Midgard [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:1113]
Board Game: Reavers of Midgard
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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There is no doubting that Reavers of Midgard is a beautifully produced game. It looks stellar throughout (although you are also paying £80 ish for the pleasure of all the nice parts). It does suffer from a couple of graphical design issues (the font choice on the game board is unreadable at any distance). It also has a lazily written rulebook in parts (the game setup could be a lot more descriptive, and doesnt tell you whether to place cards face-up or down, for example, relying on the images to tell the story, and the section on Artefacts is lacking proper explanation).

I had fun playing it, but I do think Reavers has a bit of an identity crisis being caught between being too random to be properly euro-y, and too euro-y to follow directly on from Champions of Midgard, which was more of a graaaaaaaaah smash Draugr affair. Let me explain.

Reavers of Midgard takes the Puerto Rico / San Juan / Race for the Galaxy central mechanism (one person decides the action, and then everyone else gets to do it, but without (or with less) of a perk. And to this central mechanism it adds a slew of mini games in the form of set collection, or points races.

One issue is that if you are later in turn order for an action, you are either getting the dregs of the draft, or you can top-deck a card. So you are at the mercy of whats left or randomness. You also get more random cards as bonuses for the action (again you don’t know what you will get). The Crew Dice rolls are random, and Favour Tokens don’t get you re-rolls on Crew dice (only on battle dice). You can use the favour tokens for re-rolling your attack dice, but Sea Battles are so expensive in Food (add the resource cost of the Sea Journey to that too) that you are rarely inclined to fight at sea versus just paying the required dice. It didnt seem worth the risk.

The conquering of territories (particularly if you are early in turn order) is extremely strong as you score 1 point per territory EVERY round, not just the round you gained them in. This juggernaut really starts to add up in the later rounds.

Reavers is a game thats much more tactical than strategic in nature. Work out what its best to do with whats available now. Long term strategy is difficult.

Some of the events in the game seem really odd thematically. Things like pillaging walls and towers. How am I stealing a wall or tower? It seems odd that there’s nowhere to put the stolen walls and towers. Similarly the conquering territories could have been a bit more interesting by having more variation in requirements to steal one. No-one every did the defence check (why would I roll a die when I can just buy one for 1 favour)? I almost felt like it would have been better to conquer a territory and then put up a tower in that territory. THat might have made more sense.

It definitely isn’t a terrible game, but I think it played worse for us than we hoped based on its looks. It felt a bit underdeveloped in terms of its euro engine, and we just didnt feel like we had much control (or to get control meant ignoring the hammer rolling mechanisms, which seemed wrong). We had quite a few favour tiles left at the end of the game, and I felt there needed to be more ways to use them to mitigate all the randomness.

It definitely felt like an average rather than great game.

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22. Board Game: Trismegistus: The Ultimate Formula [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:929]
Board Game: Trismegistus: The Ultimate Formula
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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Oh where to start with this one.

The TLDR is “There’s a good game somewhere in the box, but there was a lot that could have been done to make this game more teachable”.

Trismegistus has at its heart a great game mechanism. Each round you will get to draft a total of 3 dice (sequentially) from a series of bowls, and the strength (potency) of the die you took is the number of dice in that bowl (including the one you are taking out). What you can do with the die depends on what colour it is, and what alchemical element it is.

It definitely can trace some lineage to something like Coimbra or Grand Austria Hotel, but it definitely is a different beast to those (so if you have those games already, Trismegistus is definitely a different decision space).

The first barrier to play is the use of the alchemical symbols themselves. The game dice are quite small, and there are a couple of symbols that look fairly similar to each other (e.g. Tin and Copper). Also, the alchemical symbols create a language barrier to describing whats going on in the game. “I’m just going to draft squiggle” was said a lot. What’s the transmutation path? “I’m going from squiggle to woman symbol to nearly a 4, to... erm...”. In the end I had to dymo labels onto everyone’s board with what element each bowl was with words. The same problem with the essences (I’m using wagon wheel) was said more than once. The symbology completely gets in the way of game explanation. I know its less thematic but they could have used the letters from the Periodic Table (which are also language independent, but world recognised) for much of the game, and it would have immediately made it much easier to teach. The dice really needed to be larger if we are to read the alchemical symbols from across the table.

The second issue is the player aids. They are just terrible. After an hour of trying to explain the game and dymoing stickers, we were still struggling to remember the 5 basic actions, plus reactions, plus what silver and gold can be used for. The game needed proper player aids with all this information on (or even some reminders on the board!). Some of the icons that appear in the game are nowhere to be found in the icon appendix. And the icon appendix is an A4 sheet of icons!!! That’s a lot.

The third issue was the ordering of the rulebook. Transmutation is an important game mechanism, and these rules absolutely needed to be in the front, not hidden in the appendix. Its not that easy of a rulebook to get through either.

The fourth issue was the graphical design problems. The yellow element (air) is actually the black experiments. These cards should have been yellow to match. And the red experiments match pink. Why??? The experiment colours and element colours should have been identical. The taps on the transmutation lines cause confusion as they don’t do anything. And the white paths on the transmutation lines are actually grey, so they don’t match either. The artefacts should have been better integrated into the paths so its obvious which transmutation invokes their use.

The quality of the parts as supplied was actually pretty nice with the dual layer boards, and the cardboard is nice and thick.

Honestly, I was disappointed. There is a great central mechanism in the game, but a number of the choices made throughout the graphical design particularly, but also the rulebook and player aids made the game much harder to teach than it should have been, and really made it very difficult to enjoy.

I do think that the game is worthy of an improved second edition, but its hard to recommend unless you want to put in a fair but of up front work to get it into a playable state.
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23. Board Game: Glen More II: Chronicles [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:338]
Board Game: Glen More II: Chronicles
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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I played the original Glen More about 5 years ago with a friend, and didn't remember having the most positive experience playing it, but I struggle to put my finger on what it was I didn't like. I think the overarching issue was over screwing myself over on tile placement (particularly over the issues of river and road alignment).

Fast forward to Essen, and I saw this game getting a lot of buzz, but didn't have space in my case for it (I posted 12 kg of games home to myself and only just made the luggage allowance), so I decided to order it upon returning home, including the nice metal coins.

Initial impressions were both very positive and a bit frustrating. It is a very good quality print run, with nice thick boards, good quality game cards, and nice shaped wooden pieces. Absolutely nothing to complain about here. However, the Chronicles do not come pre-packed into their little boxes, they are all mixed in with the game components, and the boxes are flat packed. I can understand that the publisher felt that to keep costs down they didnt want to pre-pack all the little boxes. And I dont even mind packing the little boxes myself, but they could have made this a lot easier for me by providing a summary sheet with what went into which boxes as an extra sheet. The contents of each chronicle is listed in the appendix in the back of the rulebook, but the descriptions of the pieces are rather vague. A pictoral representation of each box would have helped enormously. It took Nick and I an hour and a half to punch, sticker, identify and sort the contents of the box.

The rulebook itself is fine, but I really feel it would have benefitted from more illustrations. For instance, there is no image of the board set up ready to play, which seems a massive omission. There are plenty of other places in the book where images really should have supplemented the verbal descriptions, like, as mentioned, the content of each chronicle.

Now onwards to the gameplay. Glen More is a time-track game with tile placement and resource engine mechanics, with majorities scorings. Like Patchwork, you advance your meeple to the tile you want to take, pay costs, receive immediate benefits, and then place the tile. This activates that tile, and the tiles in the 8 positions surrounding that tile, essentially giving you a light programming element. At the end of each round, players score majorities based on the worst placed player for number of persons, number of castles, number of whiskey barrels, and number of dudes in your home castle. You lose points for every tile in your empire in excess of the player with the least.

The time track is an interesting mechanism because it provides the time 'gas pedal' for the game, i.e. you can bring scorings forward by jumping ahead, at the cost of running your engine more times. But running your engine more means building a larger empire which ultimately loses the player points at the end of the game. You're constantly checking your position in the race for the 4 different scoring criteria, thinking how you will get ahead. And then we haven't even mentioned the clan board - when you take a person, you get to place a pip on the clan board, which provides immediate benefits, or a whole host of end-game scoring opportunities. There is quite a lot of iconography on this board, so you might want to make a key for it (this is in the appendix, but only in words and not images).

Even with the removal of the road, it is still possible to mess yourself over by poor tile placement, and indeed I mistakenly placed two sections of river not connected to the river. On later inspection, I realised river cards have the river icon, but the illustrations on these tiles could have done with just looking a bit more river-like.

In terms of player count, I do feel the game is optimised for 3 players. With 2 players you use the dummy player dice (which is totally fine as a mechanism, I didn't find it in any way obnoxious), but I think at 4 players the game might possibly drag on a bit too long for the decision density. In particular, in the run up to potential round scoring, and end-game, the game really slowed down as people squeezed in those final points. The clan board particularly can slow people up, as there is such a choice of benefits. I might have to dymo stickers onto the board with the icon effects to speed us up in future.

The vanilla mechanisms make for a good basis on which to add expansions, and with 8 chronicles (plus the A-Chronicle for Kickstarter backers) there is a myriad of ways to replay the game. I do think that the inclusion of the chronicles makes the highish cost of the game a great deal more palatable, and would allow you to keep returning to the game in the future.

All in all, a very positive first experience. I might report back again once I have played some of the chronicles.
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24. Board Game: The Magnificent [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:1347]
Board Game: The Magnificent
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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I’ve played The Magnificent at 2P and 3P now, so time for a review.

I think The Magnificent will appeal to players who like dice drafting games, or circus / conjuring themes (although the theme is not super strong with this one, despite some eye catching art work). It would also appeal to players looking for a gateway game to something like Feast for Odin (or a game that is a step up in difficulty from, say, Barenpark).

The unique mechanism in Magnificent is the idea that your available dice power for this turn is the sum of all dice of that colour, but at the end of the round, you must pay for the dice colour you have the most power in (plus any clear dice).

The Magnificent does a number of things right that make for a crunchy decision space. Each Master card has a buff that’s applied to the die played on it on the top, but a scoring criterion on the bottom. So deciding which Master card to score and give up at the end of the round is tricky. You’ve also got choices as to which posters to draft (and the clever rule that if you score multiple posters you can only use each camp tile once towards scoring). I like that you need to consider which tents are best (do you want money or points?), and which tent space you are covering. When I buy a camp tile, what do I want to cover to gain, and does that help me cover a camp zone. Lots of choices to present the agony of choice.

If I could allow myself some small criticisms, I feel that the Art Deco font choice sacrificed some readability on the posters. I also feel that the rule in the 2P setup that if the Hat Figures are separated by one space or more, the second draft of tiles is decided by the first player is overly punishing (rich get richer) problem, since one Master could be worth a game deciding number of points that gets tossed.

I feel that there is enough replayability in the pieces provided because of the A and B backs, the advanced game card draft, and the variable starting masters and trainer tiles. The game definitely is a complete and standalone package. But also I feel the game would be worthy of an expansion as the core game would support it.

This is definitely a favourite release for me from Essen.
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25. Board Game: Gentes: Deluxified Edition [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked]
Board Game: Gentes: Deluxified Edition
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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Gentes is a new to me game for 2019, as it’s taken me this long to go through the rules, sticker all the pieces and build the insert.

In reviewing, it’s always a struggle to separate the frustration of not performing very well at a game with whether the game is a good game. I think my conclusion after my first game is that Gentes is a good game, but one that I am not naturally good at. Gentes also has a bit of a eurobeige look - fans of euros will have no problem seeing past this, but players that are a bit more superficial may pass on it.

The central mechanism is around the management of time, money, cards, population types, and actions. Having population entitles you to play cards for which you meet the population requirements. But to get cards, you need to spend coins and time. And you can decide how to share time tokens between your action spaces, which affects the number of actions available this round, and in future rounds. Players can also build cities or hometowns, which provide incomes, or benefits they can spend cubes on. Cities also help meet requirements on later civilisation cards.

I guess the game does have a light civilisation theme, with staged cards, but I didnt get a strong sense of civilisation building, the game seemed more abstract than this. “I built a statue... now I can... err pay exact costs for more population”.

The division between scores can be vast (I think Nick lapped me on the points track), so don’t play this with people upset by a bad score. Your choices matter, and it can make a big difference to points.

I think its a very clever, tactical, more than strategic game. The game is the right length for the depth of decision offered. Its not a game I immediately love, but perhaps with a few more games, and better performance, I might learn to love it.
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